Alcohol and hypoglycemia is a dangerous cocktail recipe for disaster. Hypoglycemia can be a frustrating condition. With hypoglycemia, you are limited to a diet of complex carbohydrates, protein, and natural sugars. Alcohol is one of the big things that people with hypoglycemia should avoid to keep their blood sugar levels within normal range. Unfortunately, alcohol is very popular worldwide and many people with hypoglycemia find it difficult to completely avoid.
Alcohol is never the best idea, but when you have hypoglycemia it's one of the worst ideas you can have. If you have hypoglycemia, you should be forewarned that you should avoid alcohol at all costs, and you should discuss your diet and treatment options with a real doctor. However, realistically speaking, most people with hypoglycemia are still going to drink alcohol from time to time, and as an of-age adult that is your choice that you're entitled to make. It's also obvious that you plan to find the safest way of doing so, which is why you're reading this article right now.
WARNING: Drinking alcohol when you have hypoglycemia is dangerous and should be avoided at all times. This article is designed to give a generalized guideline for average/healthy individuals who suffer from hypoglycemia. These methods are not guaranteed to work for every individual, as other health factors surrounding each individual person may conflict with some of the guidelines below. Do not go out and drink after reading this article if you're hypoglycemic, talk to your doctor first and s/he can give you more detailed advice about your personal lifestyle choices according to your overall physical health.
UNDERSTAND THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL IN THOSE WITH HYPOGLYCEMIA
If you have hypoglycemia, that means that your pancreas produces too much insulin, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to frequently dip to hypoglycemic levels (below 70 milligrams per deciliter of blood). When you consume alcohol, your liver has to stop producing glucose (blood sugar) to keep up with processing the alcohol. When you have hypoglycemia this can cause a number of issues. When your liver stops producing glucose, your blood sugar levels then drop. Additionally, after the liver is done processing the alcohol, it then converts what's left to sugar and begins releasing it into the blood stream once again. This causes a large spike in blood sugar levels, followed shortly after by a quick descent due to the simple carbohydrates in alcohol that the body breaks down too easily. All of this can result in severe reactive hypoglycemia effects that can last 8 to 12 hours (some sources say up to 48 hours) after a night of binge drinking. Last but not least, being drunk has the same effects as the beginning stages of hypoglycemic shock, which makes it hard to determine if you are in any danger.
CHOOSING A DRINK
Those with hypoglycemia should steer clear of any fruity or mixed drinks, as well as most liquor. These drinks contain not only alcohol, but also extra sugar and simple carbs from the additional ingredients, all of which cause your blood sugar levels go haywire. Sugar and alcohol is yet another dangerous cocktail recipe for disaster for those with hypoglycemia.
The best choice (using the term loosely) of alcohol would be a light beer. If you like harder drinks, choose one with the lowest sugar content. If you like mixed drinks, avoid using fruit drinks or soda to mix and instead use water or club soda. Regular and dark beers contain too many simple carbs and empty calories to be a good choice of alcohol for those with hypoglycemia.
EAT BEFORE YOU DRINK
This does not only pertain to those with hypoglycemia, but rather anyone who drinks alcohol. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach, especially if you have hypoglycemia. This is probably the worst mistake you can make if you have hypoglycemia. Eat a light, yet filling, hypoglycemia-friendly meal before you start drinking, and your night will be a lot more enjoyable. Doing this will aid in keeping your blood sugar levels within normal range and prevent you from experiencing any reactive hypoglycemia symptoms while you drink and the hours that follow.
DRINK IN MODERATION
It takes your liver about one hour to finish processing a standard sized alcoholic drink. Binge drinking is always a terrible idea for those with hypoglycemia. Binge drinking will usually result in your liver going the entire night without releasing glucose, as most binge drinkers will usually drink more than 1 beer an hour. The key to avoiding reactive hypoglycemia is to drink slowly, and in moderation. Those with hypoglycemia should never drink alcohol to get "wasted", or even just "drunk". If you give your liver enough time in between drinks, it will help keep your blood sugar levels within normal range.
SNACKING WHILE DRINKING
If you're familiar with the hypoglycemia diet, you know that snacking is a big part of it. This is no different when drinking alcohol. Keep your body fueled with complex carbs and protein from things like pretzels, crackers, and nuts, and your blood sugar levels will be a little more balanced out while you drink. Remember that pretzels and nuts may make you thirsty, be careful not to keep quenching your thirst with more alcohol, as this will only add dehydration to your list of potential problems. Obviously, you never want to eat sugary or starchy snacks like candy, cake, or pie when you're drinking alcohol, unless you want to risk going into hypoglycemic shock.
LIGHT MEAL BEFORE BED
Before going to bed, it's a good idea to get a light meal or snack in your stomach. Having hypoglycemia, chances are you're going to be hungry before bed anyway. Grab a hypoglycemia-friendly meal or snack before falling asleep and you'll reduce the risk of nocturnal hypoglycemia or reactive hypoglycemia when you wake up.
After reading this article on the effects of alcohol on those with hypoglycemia, I sincerely hope you re-consider your decision to drink alcohol. However, I realize that peer pressure is sometimes a pain. If you do decide to drink alcohol and you have hypoglycemia, please make sure to take precautions to protect your health, and reserve alcohol for super-special occasions. I can't prevent you from drinking alcohol, but I can at least do my best to help you keep your hypoglycemia in check while doing so. Cheers!